PLOT- In the mid 90's author JT LeRoy took the literary world by storm with his gritty novels supposedly based on his own life as the son of a truck stop prostitute. LeRoy shrouded himself in mystery, and when he finally emerged from hiding, he always wore big glasses and hats, always surrounded by his gregarious British manager, Speedie. LeRoy found himself moving in circles with celebrities like Bono, Billy Corgan, and Debbie Harry. His novels were being adapted into movies and he was posing for fashion magazines. It all came crashing down, when New York Magazine reporter, Stephen Beachy, wrote an article in 2005, revealing that JT LeRoy didn't exist, that he was a fabrication of writer Laura Albert, and that Albert's sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop was masquerading as LeRoy.
LIKE- Prior to seeing a preview for Author: The JT LeRoy Story, I had not heard of JT LeRoy or Laura Albert. I'm an avid reader, but this had not crossed my path. The entire situation is just completely crazy and fascinating. I'm boggled that Albert was able to keep this charade going for nearly nine years, including brokering movie deals and attending high profile events.
I'm left wondering how I feel about Albert. On one hand, she's ballsy and a bit of a genius for pulling this off. I don't think if she had written the LeRoy books as herself, that they would have gotten the same amount of attention. I've not read them and I'm not making this statement based on her talent, just that it seemed that the hype surrounding her books grew primarily based on the mystery of LeRoy and his tragic upbringing. She clearly states that the books are works of fiction, but never stops people from believing that LeRoy is a real person. Does this make it okay? I say this, because on the flip side, I feel she is decietful and dishonest. She gives LeRoy AIDS. That just seems to cross the line in a major way. She positions LeRoy as an experienced expert on the topics of which he writes, which implies a blurred line, even though the stories are fiction. People bought into the person that is LeRoy, as much they did his books and Albert never stopped it.
I can understand the appeal of writing under a pseudonym. There is a tradition of female authors either writing under male names or using initials to skirt bias. However, there is a difference here, with Albert not only writing under a pseudonym, but bringing her created character to life and even creating an additional character in Speedie, and then, having these characters create friendships and business partnerships with unsuspecting people. Clearly, this crosses a line and although it may have brought recognition to her writing, it now mars her reputation.
The funny thing is, Albert herself is a complete character. She's all over the map in the documentary interviews and in videos from when she is pretending to be Speedie. She defines herself as a misfit, someone who in her teen years desperately wanted to be a part of the punk scene, but was too shy, so she lived vicariously through her sister, who she would dress up and send out to clubs with clear instructions on who to interact with and what to do. It's a manipulation, with Albert playing puppet master. Albert was molested as a child and lived in a series of group homes as a teen, experiences she uses to build the character of LeRoy. Albert is the very definition of an unreliable narrator, and even as she spoke of her childhood, it was difficult to know what was real or what was part of this persona that she is always crafting. It's fascinating and totally bizarre.
In the end, the story was less about JT LeRoy and more about figuring out this character of Laura Albert. Who is Laura Albert?
DISLIKE- Nothing, I was captivated.
RECOMMEND- Yes. Author: The JT LeRoy Story is just so crazy that you need to see it.